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EU Reports Increase in Product Safety Enforcement Efforts

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

European Union members sent 2,278 notifications of potentially dangerous consumer products through the EU’s RAPEX rapid alert system in 2012, a 26% increase that the European Commission states “could be attributed to the improved enforcement work carried out by the authorities in EU countries.” RAPEX, which encompasses all 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, is designed to quickly circulate information about dangerous non-food products so that appropriate action can be taken. In 2012 the most frequently taken such actions included withdrawal from the market, sales ban, recall from consumers, rejection of imports by customs authorities, and corrective actions.

A Commission press release offers the following information on notifications submitted in 2012.

- Five EU members states accounted for 56% of all RAPEX notifications of products posing a serious risk to consumer health and safety: Hungary (294 notifications, 15%), Bulgaria (271, 14%), Spain (199, 10%), Germany (167, 9%) and the United Kingdom (146, 8%). The Commission notes that the number of notifications made by a particular country cannot be directly linked to the level of safety of the products on its market and that there may be many reasons why some countries have more notifications than others; e.g., large market, large import volumes or experienced inspectors.

- There were RAPEX notifications from 12 countries where measures had been adopted directly or initiated by customs authorities (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Malta, Finland, Portugal, Slovakia and the United Kingdom), up from seven the year before.

- The product categories for which corrective measures had to be taken were led by clothing, textiles and fashion items (668 notifications, 34%), followed by toys (366, 19%), electrical appliances and equipment (205, 11%), motor vehicles (149, 8%) and cosmetics (86, 4%).

- The risk categories most often notified included injury (587 notifications, 25%), chemical (419, 18%), strangulation (401, 17%), electric shock (308, 13%) and choking (194, 8%).

- China (including Hong Kong) accounted for 58% of the total number of notifications of products presenting a serious risk (up from 54% the year before), followed by Europe at 17% (down from 19%). The percentage of cases with an unidentified country of origin was 11%, up from 8% in 2011 but still down significantly from 23% in 2004.

- China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has ensured follow-up action with regard to 2,216 RAPEX notifications. In 1,268 cases (57%) investigations resulted in preventive or restrictive measures being adopted either by AQSIQ or voluntarily by the Chinese manufacturer or exporter (e.g., a halt of exports of strengthened supervision). In 948 cases (43%) no measures were taken, mainly due to the fact that the Chinese company responsible for manufacturing and/or exporting products to the EU could not be found.

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